Family acceptance?

One of the ongoing issues many home/unschooling families find is that our way of life doesn't always make extended family relationships comfortable. It's an issue which comes up often enough I thought I'd save my most recent comments on the subject, sparked by a question on the Radical Unschoolers Network:

I'm generally one of the first to exclude myself from relatives - although over the years I've experienced some exclusion from friends, and living around communes I've experienced ebbs and flows of group dynamics which include excluding people - sometimes me or my family - for a time. It helps to accept that I can't change other people, I can only change myself, and then consider if whoever's mad at me has a point. That's hard. It's hard to dig down and try to see someone else's perspective when you're hurting, to look into the dark corners of your personality when you most want to be reassured you're right and fine. In my case, it may be that I've been inadvertent or careless - spoken my mind when I should have been more thoughtful and sensitive. I struggle with that! And communities (family or otherwise) often exist in layers of courtesy and unspoken avoidance. Sometimes that's too great a "cost" of belonging - the cost of belonging with my extended family on my mother's side (with a few exceptions) is to accept a degree of casual cruelty as part of the group dynamic. It's too big a cost for me, so I stay away.

It's rare for someone to be excluded from a community/family out of the blue, although it can happen suddenly - divorces and other big life changes can trigger issues which have sat for awhile. It helps, in terms of seeing the others' points of view, to consider those past issues. You can't change the past, but knowing what's gone before can help you find a degree of compassion, which can help you heal your heart.

LA wrote: i hope someone here will have some good suggestions about how to get a conversation started in the family that can start the healing process.

Does "the family" want to heal? Or are some family members cutting off someone who's outside their comfort zone? That's a situation which has come up in a number of different ways in my extended family, as well as local communities, and I don't see it as something "the family" heals from so much as individuals find ways to heal, form new relationships, and move on. So my own preference is to start there, not with the family, but in helping the person who is hurt to heal. Sometimes when individuals heal the family as a group can start to heal, but not always.

Sometimes there can be subgroups within a family with a bit of come and go between them, and that's not necessarily a bad thing - like Laura and her sister, that's the kind of subgroup I mean. It may help to see the family as having natural groups defined by affinity rather than trying to maintain a Family as a kind of monolithic whole. Focus on meaningful relationships rather than arbitrary ones - the way you'd help a child find people who share interests rather than friends who are all the same age and/or gender.

Sometimes the Best thing you can do to heal family hurts is to step away from a dream of Family and live with the reality of human beings doing the (poor) best they can with (lack of) resources at their disposal. Some members of your family don't have the emotional resources to deal with you as you are - and maybe you don't have the resources to deal with Them as They are! If you did, you would have been able to be who they wanted you to be. I'm not saying you "should" be who others want you to be, but that doing such a thing is often the cost of family membership, if the family is to be a Family - a grand shining icon of itself, all differences put aside for the gathering.

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